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How to be an Excellent Ally this Autism Acceptance Month

Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast – Episode 6

by Adina Levy

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Show Notes:

Autism Acceptance Month is here! This April, how can YOU be a fantastic, genuine and helpful ally to the autistic community?

Here’s how you can be an excellent ally this Autism Acceptance Month:⁠
1️⃣ Listen to diverse autistic people⁠
2️⃣ Share the work of autistic creators
3️⃣ Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Challenge your existing beliefs & biases⁠⁠
4️⃣ Call out ableist, negative, incorrect views of autism⁠
5️⃣ Celebrate autistic joy!⁠
6️⃣ If you mess up, own it. Help others learn.⁠
7️⃣ Don’t leave your advocacy in April. Make it a life-time thing.⁠
⁠

Links

👩‍💻 Therapists & Allied Health Professionals: 26th April is the next LIVE round of my Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Introductory 2-hour workshop. Learn more and join me here: https://playlearnchat.com/neurodiversity-affirming-practice-intro-workshop/

Learn more about the all supports I offer for professionals: www.playlearnchat.com/professionals

My resource & links list – always being updated! https://www.playlearnchat.com/resources

Podcast Link: https://pod.link/1625478932

Website: www.playlearnchat.com

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/play.learn.chat

 

Transcript:

Welcome to the Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast. I’m Adina Levy from Play Learn Chat. I’m a neurodivergent speech therapist. And I’m obsessed with creating a world where neurodiversity is understood, embraced, supported, and celebrated. Join me as we have conversations about autistic, ADHD, neurodivergent experiences, and I share how you can support neurodivergent children in your world.

Let’s all work together to make change where change is needed so that the world can be a more friendly place for neurodivergent people and for everyone.

April is Autism Acceptance month. Some people talk about it as Autism Awareness Month. And there’s also a lot of debate about some other terms and which of these terms is more helpful. I personally lean more towards Autism Acceptance because I think that even though awareness is increasing and needed and still important, a bigger goal for me is to have the world accept autistic people and autistic community, rather than trying to change us. So with that said, I’d love to share today, how you can be an excellent ally. To the autistic community, this Autism Acceptance Month. This even includes you, if you are listening and you are, autistic. I feel like sometimes we could even be better allies for ourselves and for our own community.

So there’s seven key ideas that I’m going to share. And I’ll list them out here and then we’ll go into each idea.

Number one is listen to diverse autistic people. And I always like to emphasise the word diverse.

Number two. Share the work of autistic creators.

Number three. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Challenge your existing beliefs and biases.

Number four, call out abelist negative and incorrect views of autism.

Number five, celebrate autistic joy.

Number six, if you mess up own it and help others learn.

And number seven. Please don’t leave your advocacy and allyship in April. Make sure that you carry this into your everyday life and your communities.

Let’s dig into each idea or a little bit more.

Listening to diverse autistic people is a really, really important starting point.

There is no lack of information out there on the internet.

There are many places to find it. And I personally love Instagram. I’ve been able to connect with, learn from, and share the work of many autistic and neurodivergent creators on Instagram. It’s a place I love to hang out, but if that’s not your jam, then that’s fine.

Find where it is that you like to hang out on the internet or in the real world. And find ways to learn and listen from autistic creators in those spaces.

But also challenge yourself to listen in ways that you haven’t traditionally.

I’d like to emphasise the idea of diversity here. We know that autistic people do not just come in one shape and form. And one way that we present in the world.

It’s essential that you’re listening to voices of people, of all different abilities, communication modes, co-occurring conditions, races, genders. Make sure that you’re hearing and learning from people around the world, who live in different circumstances who come up against different life challenges, different biases, who celebrate different joys, and who share with the world in different ways. To get you started. I’ve got a list on my website with lots of resources, including many different Instagram accounts that I really love.

Just go to playlearnchat.com/resources, and you’ll find that there. I’ll also pop the link in the show notes as always.

Allyship point number two is sharing the work of autistic creators. Especially amplifying the voices of marginalised people when it’s a topic around their lives, around what affects them. During Autism Acceptance Month, If you are autistic, feel free to get noisy and share your perspective. Please feel free, but not burdened to share your insights and your perspective with the world. And, you know, don’t just do that in April.

And if you’re not autistic, make sure that you’re prioritising sharing and amplifying the posts and the voices and the information and the books and all the resources out there that are autistic led and created.

Keep in mind to not speak for us or not speak over us, but instead help us share our messages with the world.

The next idea is getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. And be prepared to challenge all those beliefs and biases and stereotypes that you already hold.

It can be a really good clue of when you need to challenge yourself.

When you’re reading, hearing, listening to something, learning something. And you might feel a bit of a discomfort inside. Everyone experiences feelings differently, but I want you to pay attention to your body’s way of showing you and your mind’s way of showing you. That there might be a challenging idea that is different to something you’ve already known and held and believed. And you might need to spend time thinking about it, learning about it and checking in with yourself. Is it time to change that belief?

One of the many beliefs that we need to challenge around autism is the idea that only little boys can be autistic and autism only looks a certain way. And it might look like sitting in the corner, stimming and shouting. That is certainly one way that an autistic person can present, but it’s only one way.

There are many other ways that autistic people look live and experience the world.

Another belief or bias that you might need to challenge is the idea that autism is always bad. That can come along with language like somebody showing ‘red flags’ for autism or ‘risk factors’. If somebody reveals that they are autistic or their child is autistic. And you feel like you want to give an apology? I’m so sorry to hear that. There’s a bias. There is a belief. It’s really important for me to be sharing let’s say the bright side of autism. And in fact, I’ve just recently shared a post on Instagram where.

A few beautiful autistic humans shared an idea of their own, about the bright side of autism and what that is for them. This links in with one of the other ideas I shared, which is all about celebrating autistic joy. And that idea in itself might be something that you need to challenge.

Autism isn’t all good. And it isn’t all bad. But so many of the perceptions that we have and what’s been in the media and what comes up most when we first think about autism or autistic people can often be very negative assumptions

The whole neurodiversity affirming movement is about shifting from this idea that neurodiversity and difference is not wrong. It is different, but it is not wrong. And difficulties don’t necessarily lie within the person themselves. The challenge lies between the interaction of the person in their world, in their community, in their environment.

And with a more supportive environment and more supportive and understanding people around a neurodivergent person, it can be a very beautiful existence.

Advocacy is hard work and if it’s only left to the group, often the marginalised group, to advocate for themselves. That is another huge burden, which can not necessarily be held up. Which is really actually unfair.

So one of the key ways that you can be an excellent ally and advocate for autistic communities and for autistic people. Is by supporting us when you see people sharing outdated views, incorrect views, negative views of autism. Please help us. You can be one of the voices sharing more correct, more affirming information. Many ways that this shows up through autism acceptance month and through April is through symbolism such as the color blue. And the puzzle piece symbol, both of which are very damaging and harmful to the autistic community.

Any references to puzzle pieces. And the idea of light it up blue for autism. These have come from a very harmful organisation in America called Autism Speaks.

Autism speaks have been known to talk about seeking a cure for autism. Um, and as we know, we can’t cure autism. We are. Autistic. That’s it. And it’s not a problem.

They use damaging language such as ASD autism spectrum disorder. And if you’re not too sure why that’s a problem, please go back to my first podcast episode about affirming language that should help you out there.

The puzzle piece symbol, which has been very commonly associated with autism again comes from this organisation Autism Speaks. And is connected with the idea that autistic people are a puzzle that need to be solved. It’s seen as a very damaging and problematic symbol.

So, if you do see something, say something which was a slogan in Australia, I think in the two thousands.

Better to inform people, not just wait for autistic people to come along and have to fight time and time again, or call it out time and time again.

More appropriate symbols are the infinity symbol. With the rainbow infinity symbol standing for neuro-diversity. Generally sometimes for autism, but generally for neurodiversity. And the gold infinity symbol standing for autism specifically. Why? It’s a very cute reason because in the periodic table, gold is written as AU for a utism. Also, I think we’re pretty golden and shiny.

Celebrating autistic joy is such an important part of how you can support autistic people and shifting the common narrative that autism is a problem is devastating. It’s something to be sorry about.

I’ll share a link in the show notes to my Instagram posts, where myself and seven other autistic people share what it is that lights us up. What is the bright side of autism for us. And to me, it’s just a little glimmer in the world to share some of the positive messages about how autism can affect our lives in a good way, in a really helpful way, in a fun way, in a joyful way.

So please, if you see messages like that, please amplify it and make sure that we’re not only sharing messages about negatives and challenges. We do need to recognise that challenges exist. I’m not trying to breed toxic positivity here.

But my hope is to balance out some of that problematic narrative with some new ideas and some shiny ideas about the whole range of emotions and experiences that can come with being autistic.

The next idea I want to share is. If you mess up own it and help others learn. So, if you happen to write something online or share a post or share something and you later find out that it was not affirming. It was not supportive.

Rather than simply delete it and make it go away. Use that as an opportunity to stand up brave and tall and express to the world. I messed up. And I’m learning. I think there’s a human vulnerability in all of us, or even, if it’s an organisation that happens to share problematic messages, there’s really important value in sharing the learning, the process of shifting practice and taking on new ideas. Rather than hiding a problem and just making it go away, be brave and express how you have shifted and changed.

This is something I planned to go into in a future episode. Especially for therapists about how we go about addressing our changing practices. So when we know that we’ve done practices in the past, that have not been neurodiversity affirming, aligned. Said things to kids, run programs, had goals that are not affirming and how we actually cope with that pivot and that shift.

So again, I think the best way of doing this is if you mess up, own it and express that and clarify and share with the world your learning to help others learn to.

The last big idea I’m sharing is please don’t leave your advocacy in April. Many people say, and I think validly. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need an awareness or an acceptance month. But here we are, we have it. And it’s probably a helpful thing to have. As long as we’re doing really good allyship, really good connecting and sending important messages out into the world.

But we’re not just autistic one month of the year, so please continue this momentum forward every single month of the year and every year of your life.

If this has sparked something for you and if you’re a therapist, an allied health professional, a therapy assistant or a student, and you want to learn more with me about how you can shift your practice or confirm that your practice is neurodiversity affirming.

I’ve got another round of my Neurodiversity Affirming Practice, Introductory Workshop, which is coming up on the 26th of April.

The recording continues to be available, so you can join any time before or after. Obviously if you joined before you can submit questions and you can come to the live workshop.

And if you’re joining after you’ll get the recording straight away.

Find more information about that. And the other supports that I offer on playlearnchat.com/ professionals.

Thank you so much for sharing this audio space and time with me, and thank you for being open to learning and unlearning and truly listening to the neurodivergent experience and perspective. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with a friend and join me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m @play.learn.chat

that’s Play.Learn.Chat, you’ll find all the links that we discussed in the show notes. Have a fabulous day.

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